Selfies in one form or another have been around since the 15th century. Artists in centuries past used paints, brushes and canvas to paint pictures of themselves. To create a self-portrait, Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Van Gogh looked into a mirror and painted what they saw on the canvas. This method took hours, days, months and sometimes years to complete. Most people in this era couldn’t afford silver-backed glass mirrors so they didn’t even know what they looked like.
The first selfie photograph was taken in 1839 on a daguerreotype camera by Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer in photography. To capture this image, he took the lens cap off and ran into the frame to sit for a minute before running back to the camera to put the lens cap back on. Thanks to today’s technology, this process is much easier.
With the debut of the Kodak Brownie box camera in 1900, self-photography became more widespread. One of the first teenagers, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, used a mirror to take her own picture and sent it to a friend.
Fast forward to 1923, Samuel Shlafrock invents the earliest instant camera that had a camera and portable wet darkroom in a single compartment. In 1948 the first easy-to-use instant cameras offered to the public were invented by an American scientist, Edwin Land. Polaroid Land camera weighed over four pounds and cost $89.75 but despite those drawbacks, all 56 cameras and film packs sold out.
In the 1970s, self-expressive photography thrived when the more affordable instant cameras came onto the market. Once you snapped the photo, you watched as the image developed right before your eyes. Did you know that Instagram’s first-ever logo is based on a 1977 Land camera?
The selfie, as we know it today, had its origins in Japanese kawaii (cute) culture in the 1990s. Young girls would take photos with friends, exchange them and post in their kawaii albums. And in 1983, Minolta’s Disc-7 camera had a convex mirror on the front to enable people to take self-portraits.
The telescopic extender was patented in 1983 and came to be known as the selfie stick. It achieved worldwide popularity in the early 21st century.
As cell phones came along in the late 1990s, Japanese models included front facing cameras that enabled the creation of selfies. These were also used for video calls and as more mobile phones came on the market like the iPhone 4 the digital cameras were available globally.
In 2000 social media sites were introduced and people began posting their selfies on places like MySpace, Facebook, Flickr and Snapchat. The selfie - as coined by Australian Nathan Hope (2002), became popular all over the world and a new genre of photography was born. Selfies these days aren't just for one person, groups of people have joined in the fun.
By 2013 the word “selfie” was included in the online version of the Oxford Dictionary and was announced as the word of the year. Instagram has over 53 million photos tagged with the hashtag #selfie to date and within one week’s time (October 2013), the hashtag was used in more than 150,000 tweets on Twitter.
24 billion selfies were uploaded to Google in 2018. Some of these have been taken at interactive pop-up museums like the Museum of Ice Cream, Color Factory, Candytopia and the Museum of Selfies. Some experiential museums have themes like the Egg House, the Halloween Scream Museum and the Museum of Pizza while others focus on culture and art like the Museum of Pop culture, the Parody of Art Museum and PopUp Disney. These trendy museums exist all over the world.